When you have to juggle new tools like artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, blockchain or robotic process automation (RPA), creating a custom-tailored technology strategy is enough to make anyone’s head spin. However, one Japanese firm is working particularly hard to decrypt this challenge for its clients.
Fujitsu has truly earned its stripes in the tech sector – it’s the world’s 7th largest IT services provider as well as the top IT services provider in Japan – and the firm shows no signs of slowing down its winning streak. The technology heavyweight has already dipped its toe into the realm of quantum computing, launching a quantum-inspired computing digital annealer cloud service earlier this year. This has already been adopted by leading manufacturers like Volkswagen, allowing it to answer complex problems which were previously unsolvable with linear technology upgrades. In this instance, it allowed the German automotive maker to reduce its sound emissions and improve driving comfort. Drawing upon quantum phenomena, this technology could stand as a stopgap between today’s computing methods and the practicalities of quantum computing. More importantly, though, it’s enabling true business value. For Yves de Beauregard, EMEIA Head of Digital Business Solutions, this should be front and centre when a firm is embarking on a digital transformation journey.
“The real question is: what added value can this technology bring with the addition of AI or analytics?” poses Beauregard. “Over the past years, we’ve seen that we have the physical world and the digital world. Only companies which really embrace both can be winners in the market.” By using emerging technologies, Fujitsu Digital Business Solutions not only aims to help their clients enter the digital world, but it also wants to help them achieve tangible business goals. “It’s about adding technology to create purpose solutions in the market,” reiterates Beauregard. “I wouldn’t say it’s a CIOs call alone because when it comes to the transformation you want the entire business to operate better than you currently do.”
Digital transformation is a mammoth task, and to cement its position in the market Fujitsu has developed four key goals to keep it laser focused. Staff leadership is important, Beauregard says: “we need to really understand the technology, what makes it compelling and how we can support next-generation technology.” Secondly, the firm needs to keep its ear to the ground and manage innovation ecosystems. “There’s a number of startups and innovation centres which we have very good cooperation with,” explains Beauregard. Another mission is described as the ‘additional application of knowledge’. In layman’s terms, this means that Fujitsu plans to circulate knowledge across its global EMEIA footprint, rather than having this information concentrated at its Centres of Excellence (CoE). Finally, comes perhaps the most exciting part: the development of the solutions. “There are some solutions that are driven by the market vertical,” says Beauregard, citing the company’s use of blockchain and RPA in the transport industry. This allowed its clients to deliver seamless payments to customers with little to no human interaction and it could also be applied to other sectors. “The way we look at it though, we want to build solutions that can act as building blocks and which can be applied in different markets,” adds Beauregard.
As part of his day-to-day responsibilities, Beauregard oversees Fujitsu’s Centres of Excellence (CoE). Dotted across the region, these centres hope to act as beacons of knowledge, offering strong leadership, best practices, research and support on key trends like RPA, AI, data analytics and blockchain. Just as a teacher needs to know their subject inside and out, by deeply understanding these technological trends, Fujitsu hopes to make it easier to relay digital solutions to its clients. Yet, Fujitsu doesn’t just help firms implement fundamental technologies, it can also help digitally-savvy firms become even more technologically mature.
Take the automotive industry, for example. Many car manufacturers are not new to the world of robotics. Since the 1960s, many automotive firms have pioneered the use of industrial robots such as welding robots and cobots. This has helped improve quality, relieve bottlenecks and protect workers from difficult and dangerous jobs. Now, Fujitsu believes it can take this one step further.
“One of the critical tasks for car manufacturers today is that they need to find the optimal path for the robots’ rails so that they can move along the production line,” observes Beauregard. “One of the reasons why this is complex is that you may have hundreds of robots which you need to be able to move and work at the same time. The true question is: how do you make sure that they can operate at the same time, as fast as they can, without crashing and creating an incident?” This is crucial as “every second you can win is what gives you a competitive edge,” says Beauregard, highlighting that if you can produce 10 more cars in the same amount of time, you’ll get a better return on your assets. Traditionally, the best path for a robot was identified using statistical measures but by using quantum-inspired computing, Beauregard says you could “multiply the productivity of a robot by two or three digits”. “If you look at the entire plant, this could potentially save the manufacturer having to build or expand a factory in order to produce more cars because you would be better optimising the space,” he says.
Digital transformation is a phrase which has dominated the headlines, and for many CIOs, it can be difficult to know where to begin. For some, digital transformation is about putting customer interactions online, and for others it may be about re-inventing the business model. What advice would Beauregard give a firm looking to take their first step on this journey? “Striking the right balance between physical and digital is really a key step,” he answers. “If you have a strong physical presence but you don’t have a sufficient digital footprint, it’s going to be tough and you’re going to have a hard time.” He also points out how firms should be inspired by competition. “The ones that are taking risks and bringing technology to the market first are the ones that will really make an impact on the market,” he notes. Finally, CIOs should focus less on new gadgets and technologies and more on the business case and processes behind them. “If you just look at technology, you’ll only embrace one part of the answer,” Beauregard says, “the smartest digital transformations bring a combination of solutions and ideas.
“We really encourage our customers to forget about the technology for once and to tell us what would be the one thing that would completely disrupt their market,” he adds. “Going forward, it’s our job to make the building blocks of a real digital solution.” In the future, the top item on Fujitsu’s agenda is positioning itself as a key partner for its customers. As the industry shifts towards a new age of computing, Fujitsu’s quantum computing capability will undoubtedly give it an edge but perhaps, the firm’s most important asset is its business acumen, combined with its digital-savvy approach.